Live: Janelle Monáe, TV On The Radio, And Toro Y Moi Break Boundaries At Afro-Punk

Janelle Monáe.
Afro-Punk Festival
Commodore Barry Park
Sunday, August 26

Better than: Sitting at home, waiting for Breaking Bad to start.

Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley were some of the original architects of rock and roll. Jimi Hendrix pushed it forward in the late '60s. Then came Prince. And Bad Brains. And Living Colour. And the Black Rock Coalition. Plus, what's more rock than "Rock Box"? Or "Maggot Brain"? Making the same claim is New York's annual Afro-Punk Festival, which wrapped its eighth staging on Sunday night. Over two consecutive nights in Fort Greene's Commodore Barry Park, the festival showcased an array of black artists who were punk in spirit if not always in musical aesthetic.

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Live: Catalpa Offers A Little Bit Of Everything To The Soggy Masses At Randall's Island

Snoop Dogg at Catalpa.
PHOTOS: Sunday at Catalpa

Catalpa NYC: Snoop Dogg, Black Keys, Matt & Kim, Matisyahu, A$AP Rocky, Hercules & Love Affair, TV On The Radio, Girl Talk, et al.
Randall's Island
Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29

Better than: Arguing over an iPod's shuffle function.

Music festivals without a historical following or a known brand identity can employ many strategies in their inaugural year, one of which is "Appeal to as many prospective demographics as possible." Catalpa NYC, which debuted this weekend at Randall's Island, decided to combat this problem by throwing together a bunch of popular-ish acts and some quirky attractions—art, fire, a chance to "elope" with a fellow Snoop Dogg fan.

Results were mixed; the lineup succeeded in having a broad appeal, but lacked a coherent musical aesthetic. Many of the non-musical attractions were spoiled by rain on Saturday and, faced with the prospect of surviving on its artists alone, Catalpa became a referendum on its performers' current positions within the musical landscape. Many attendees claimed to like "everything," so Catalpa became a chance to find out what the new "everything" is.

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Thelonious Monk (2) Meets TV On The Radio (15) In Sound Of The City's Musical March Madness

​The Round of 64 for Sound of the City's own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—is a little jam-packed today, with six matches on the docket. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) This time out, we're back in the Brooklyn quadrant of the bracket for a match between jazz pioneer Thelonious Monk and . Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for your favorite.

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Live: Amadou & Mariam Engage In The Business Of Show At The Box

Amadou & Mariam
The Box
Monday, February 6

Better than: Waiting for the official tour.

When it comes to music rooms with a stunning view, it was tough to beat the penthouse at the Cooper Square Hotel (now André Balazs's unfortunately named The Standard East Village) last summer, when Annie Ohayon's L'Afrik C'Est Chic series featured guitarist Amadou Bagayoko and his singing wife Mariam Doumbia during a handful of stunning evenings. As the setting sun created spectacular effects on the surrounding architecture, the couple from Mali, who also happen to be blind, performed stripped-down versions of their repertoire inches away from a stylish international crowd shoehorned into the bar. It was sort of perfect.

Amadou and Mariam's equally minimal invitation-only appearance at The Box was less so, although still something of a treat. It came at the end of a day dedicated to shooting a video for "Wily Kataso" (Go Home) from the fiftysomething pair's April release, Folila (We Came to Play the Music). Guest vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio were also on hand. As members of the production team gesticulated wildly from the sides of the stage, the four singers lip-synced as videocameras filmed the dancing crowd. It didn't take much to manufacture enthusiasm. The audience had already been primed with attire suggestions such as "artist hipster," "Warhol-esque dance party," "Manhattan business professional," "sexy night out," and—best of all—"TV on the Radio urban." As Duffman might say: "Oh yeah!"

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Pazz & Jop 2011: Michael Tedder On Fucked Up's Majesty, Danny Brown's Cunning Skills, And The Joy Formidable's Outro Power

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. Here, Michael Tedder breaks down his entire ballot, and along the way he talks about about the operatic heights of Fucked Up, the shredding ability of Annie Clark and Ritzy Bryan, and the power of the "boof."

Fucked Up, David Comes to Life (30 points): I was starting to get a sense of the way the wind was blowing for this year's roundup, and I'm generally aware that aggressive music, no matter how smart and inventive, has a ceiling for critical support. (I should point out that I submitted my ballot before the Spin endorsement.) So, just like I did last year with Titus Andronicus' The Monitor (I will not accept the idea that anyone this decade wrote a better album about America now, or a better album period than that), I went all in, points wise, to try to get my favorite album in to the top ten. Like last year, I failed, and I regret nothing. Anyway, people focusing on the intentionally confusing plot of this rock opera are not paying enough attention to the operatic arrangements (that term is not used as loosely as you imagine) Mike Haliechuk and company are offering up here, like some bizarre amalgam of Crass, Queen and Chavez. Also, I still don't know how Veronica died, and I'm surprised that in these #OWS days no one is discussing the working-class fatigue subtext ("those better days have passed us by") on display here.

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Live: TV On The Radio Pop Up In The Sky


TV on the Radio
Billboard at the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Sts.
Wednesday, August 17

Better than: "Not a concert," said someone standing next to me.

Two days ago Maura forwarded me an email from a Heineken rep giving her the heads-up on a "newsworthy event" set to take place the next evening. "Do you want to check this out?" she asked. I did. Worst case I'd grab a few free drinks, stand among the beautiful people, and watch a pretty good band play a half-hour of music. This is almost exactly what happened. (I also ate some free guacamole.)

Maybe it's because I'm still new to this sort of thing, but I find it amusing when PR people (or anyone, really; we media types are as guilty of this as anyone) promise that something will be a newsworthy event. Such a statement isn't just a promise, it's a performative—a speech act that does the action it seems to describe. So even if nothing happens, the fact that nothing happened at an event that was proclaimed as newsworthy will be newsworthy.

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Gerard Smith, R.I.P.

TV on the Radio bassist Gerard Smith passed away this morning after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement on the band's official site. "We are very sad to announce the death of our beloved friend and bandmate, Gerard Smith, following a courageous fight against lung cancer," read the statement. "Gerard passed away the morning of April 20th, 2011. We will miss him terribly." Last month Smith, who had been a member of the band since 2005, announced that would be sitting out the tour promoting the band's new album, Nine Types Of Light, in order to battle the disease. (The band has canceled its next five shows on that tour.)

TV on the Radio Turn Their Gaze Inward


For a brief moment in late 2008, it felt like the clouds were parting after eight dark years, and TV on the Radio's supremely great "Golden Age" might just be heralding the start of something truly amazing. The band went all in, leaving any arty pretension to the music video and earnestly proclaiming that, holy shit, positivity and patience might just pay off.

Well, that certainly didn't last long, did it? Though it might have felt in a tiny way like Blue America's own "Winds of Change," even Kyp Malone himself was dubious. "I just voted for a dude who supports wiretapping," he told Spin in early 2009, "because that was the best option."

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Win Tickets To TV On The Radio's Show At Radio City Music Hall

14cal_tv on theradio.jpg
Vidhya Nagarajan
Special for the Village Voice Comics Issue

TV On The Radio will mark the release of their forthcoming album Nine Types of Light with a show at Radio City Music Hall next Wednesday, April 13, and today we're giving away a pair of tickets to the concert. To enter, just send an email to the Sound of the City inbox before 3 p.m. today with the answer to this question: Who plays the janitor in TVOTR's upcoming video for "No Future Shock"? We'll pick a winner before the end of the business day.

Details about the band's just-announced appearance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which takes place the night before the Radio City show, are below.

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SXSW 2011 In Photos, Starring Odd Future, Trash Talk, Das Racist, and Other People Who Like To Break Things

You don't have to go home, Tyler, but you can't stay here. All photos by Rebecca Smeyne.
Another SXSW is in the books, granting great relief to those of us who were just subjected to five straight days of partying-related Twitter updates, and great sorrow to those who became accustomed to the 80 degree weather and not getting snowed on in freezing cold New York City. But all things must come to an end, even for Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator, who had to go home to his mom's house like all the rest of Austin's expatriate population come Monday morning. Our recap of the actual festival is to follow; in the meantime, intrepid photographer Rebecca Smeyne was there and brought back photos. Many involve people breaking things in convention centers (or maybe that's just Das Racist?). Either way, her selected photos are below (you can see the rest in full at our at our slideshow):

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